Will Richard, first addition of Todd Golden era at UF, discusses decision to join Gators
Upon entering his name into the NCAA’s transfer portal, freshman guard Will Richard quickly heard from new Florida coach Todd Golden, though he was hardly the only Division I head coach to reach out within the first 24 hours of Richard filing the paperwork to transfer.
“The first day I probably talked to around 25 to 30 schools,” Richard said. “It was overwhelming for sure.”
But Golden had an advantage: he was the first to discuss with Richard what UF had to offer the rising sophomore.
As a result of Golden’s timeliness, Richard scheduled his first official visit of his newfound recruitment with the Florida program, and two days after departing Gainesville the 6-foot-5 transfer from Belmont University became the first player to commit to Golden at Florida.
During his first season at Belmont, Richard posted averages of 12.1 points and six rebounds per contest while shooting 46.8% from the field. He finished as the team's third-leading scorer and the second-leading rebounder while proving to be a more than capable defender for the Bruins.
Having already experienced success at Belmont in his first year with the team, it would have been understandable if Richard had been initially apprehensive about his decision to depart Nashville for Gainesville – or any program – but Golden and his coaching staff quickly made him feel right at home on his visit.
“They did a really good job of selling me on the program, and just going around on campus, I just knew that it was home,” Richard said. “Just from my conversation that we had on the phone, I had already had the best connection and relationship with (Golden) of all the coaches that I’ve been talking to. So, being on campus really just solidified it for me.”
The surrounding area and the facilities may be important aspects when it comes to the recruitment process, but they’re hardly the reason a player opts to join a program. Fit, usage and opportunity are key aspects, too, and often that comes down to a coach’s system.
Golden’s plan for Richard and his teammates was undoubtedly a significant selling point.
“He told me they definitely want to play fast, get guys out in transition,” Richard said, “get quick catch-and-shoot threes, and get to the basket and get good twos.”
Still an underclassmen, Richard isn’t as focused or knowledgeable on the analytical aspect of the game as Golden, but he was still able to understand the methodology behind the approach. In a sign the teaching process from coach to player won’t be overly complicated with the use of analytics, Richard said Golden was able to easily communicate the necessary information.
“At first, I’m not really an analytics guy, but the way he broke it down to me, it’s really simple,” Richard said. “You can tell he knows what he’s talking about, and the way that he uses it, it definitely benefits not only the players but the team as well.”
Considering the program may return as many as seven players from last season’s team, Richard isn’t the first Gator to hear what Golden has to offer players during the 2022-23 campaign. He had an opportunity to meet those in the building for Florida’s voluntary individual workouts, including fellow freshman Kowacie Reeves, and Richard had time to get perspective on the experiences of those already acclimated to the program and community.
“I got to talk to CJ Felder, Kowacie, Jason Jitoboh, Alex Klatsky and Jack May, I got to talk to those guys,” Richard said. “They definitely were telling me (the SEC) was something to adjust to. I talked to Kowacie a lot about it and he was saying him coming out of high school was definitely a jump from what he did in high school, but once you get in there and you start playing and get used to it, it’s just basketball at that point.”
While Reeves hasn’t officially announced his return to Gainesville for his sophomore season, the duo were able to discuss the potential of playing together and how they could put each other in a position for success in Golden’s inaugural season with the UF program.
“We actually had a really good conversation, and there was a lot of talk about if I came here how we could benefit each other, how we could make each other better, stuff like that,” Richard said of Reeves. “Just how dangerous we could be.”
Richard is back in Nashville, though he’s itching to return to Gainesville and begin preparing for his second season of collegiate basketball, where he’ll surely face increased competition – externally and from his teammates, some of whom will vie with Richard for minutes and a role over the upcoming months.
He’s not looking to let any time go to waste when it comes to putting himself in the ideal position for success, however.
“I’m finishing the semester at Belmont, so my last day will be May 4, so I’ll be working out here, but as soon as school is over I want to get down there as soon as possible and get to work,” Richard said. “Probably mid-May I’ll be there.”